Comparison of finite difference and control volume methods for solving differential equations

Gerardine G. Botte, James A. Ritter, Ralph E. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Comparisons are made between the finite difference method (FDM) and the control volume formulation (CVF). An analysis of truncation errors for the two methods is presented. Some rules-of-thumb related to the accuracy of the methods are included. It is shown that the truncation error is the same for both methods when the boundary conditions are of the Dirichlet type, the system equations are linear and represented in Cartesian coordinates. A technique to analyze theaccuracy of the methods is presented. Two examples representing different physical situations are solved using the methods. The FDM failed to conserve mass for a small number of nodes when both boundary conditions include a derivative term (i.e. either a Robin or Neumann type boundary condition) whereas the CVF method did conserve mass for these cases. The FDM is more accurate than the CVF for problems with interfaces between adjacent regions. The CVF is (AX) order of accuracy for a Neumann type boundary condition whereas the FDM is (AX)2 order. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2633-2654
Number of pages22
JournalComputers and Chemical Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2000


  • Control volume formulation
  • Finite difference method
  • Piecewise-linear profile
  • Stepwise profile
  • Taylor's series
  • Truncation errors


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